Julie Scelfo is a former staff writer/current contributor to The New York Times, where her stories about society and human behavior reframe popular ideas and ask us to rethink our basic assumptions. Scelfo has contributed to The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture and her work has also appeared in Salon, Oprah’s O Magazine, Epicurious, Time Out New York and LitHub. Scelfo’s most recent work is The Women Who Made New York.
On November 1, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Fear Itself alongside Rachel Eliza Griffiths, David Kilcullen, and Lev Grossman (tickets). We spoke to Julie ahead of the show…
Name: Julie Scelfo
What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing? For a reason I can’t explain, I still remember a haiku I wrote in elementary school:
A butterfly flies.
Out goes its beautiful wings.
It flutters away
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? I would never advise someone to be a journalist unless they have no choice. You only do this because you have to.
What writer, past or present, do you wish you could eat dinner with? James Baldwin. Duh! Anais Nin, Alice Walker, Gloria Jean Watkins or Carson McCullers would be pretty great too. Also Alexis de Tocqueville. Ida B. Wells. Maybe the poet Dorthea Lasky? I will stop now.
What writer do you wish you could share with the world? Every person on earth should read Audre Lorde, bell hooks and Neil Postman. Along with a few others, like Marshall McLuhan, Simone de Beauvoir, Toni Morrison, Piri Thomas, Erving Goffman, I guess that’s my personal canon.
Are there any quotes you use to inspire you? Sure, an expression my Great Aunt Jean used to use if she really agreed with you: “And how!” Just two words but it communicated many things.